by Karen Walsh

    Women in Trades – What is a Woman’s Job?

    In Newfoundland & Labrador women have broken down the barriers as to what is traditional and non-traditional work for women and they are forging into jobs that are leading them to great careers, financial security and opening doors for successful futures.

    In the progression from the Hibernia days to the current Hebron project, women are taking on a greater role in the skilled trades sector in the oil and gas field. “It is not can a tradeswoman go to work on the industrial projects, but how many can we send there?” Says Karen Walsh, Office to Advance Women Apprentices. There are ironworkers, mobile crane and heavy equipment operators, carpenters, electricians, welders, scaffolders, concrete finishers, and the list goes on.

    The Office to Advance Women Apprentices (OAWA) (funded by the Provincial Government of Newfoundland & Labrador) has been working diligently with unions, contractors and the Government Benefits and Diversity team to ensure that tradeswomen are actively participating in the industrial projects within our province.

    Women are not only getting hired on the provincial industrial projects such as Hebron, Muskrat Falls, Long Harbour, and Maritime Link, but they are an integral part of the actual construction. Women are breaking the norms and showing up on job sites where men are taking a double look to see just who is under that hard hat, and they are moving through the ranks to Safety Ambassador, General Foreperson, participating in National trades’ competitions, etc.

    Charlotte Kratchmer, concrete finisher was a little surprised when she got promoted to the position of Foreperson on the industrial site she worked on but it did not take long for her leadership skills to bring her to the next level of General Foreperson. Joanne Greeley after working through the ranks of electrician at the Long Harbour site took on the role of Craft Safety Ambassador and Kirstene Reyes proudly represented women in trades in a National trades completion this past summer.

    Women are taking on the roles of trades instructors in colleges, committee members on block and red seal exam reviews, Program Development Officers with the apprenticeship division and even starting their own construction businesses.

    OAWA has a registry database of over 1100 tradeswomen and that includes women going into trades programs directly out of high school to women in their late 40’s or early 50’s moving into the trades as a second career. They have turned barriers into opportunities and are changing the attitudes and outlook of what makes a construction site.

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